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Dec 13, 2016 4:46 PM

'Racist and offensive' Native American mural asked to be removed from Durham post office


DURHAM — For years, Durham’s post office has been at the center of controversy over a mural some local residents find racist and offensive.

It depicts a Native American holding a torch, apparently ready to set a Dover settler’s house on fire.

“Complaints are fairly frequent. A visitor marching into our office and saying, ‘how can you have this racist, offensive picture in our post office?’” said Todd Selig, Durham Town Administrator.

Some Durham residents want the image of the Native American removed.

“I’d side with removing it,” said Steven Barard of Durham, as he left the post office Tuesday.

The New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs also opposes the image titled “Cruel Adversity” on the painted mural. The Native American holding a torch is supposed to depict the Oyster River Massacre in Durham on July 18th 1694. Five homes and 15 dwellings were burned down by Native Americans who killed or carried off 100 settlers.

“The mural that is causing controversy at the post office is an accurate depiction,” said Selig.

He thinks the mural should remain as an expression of free speech, historical record, and artwork.

“I think erasing it, or painting over it is the wrong approach,” he added.

He says strict government rules don’t allow for the removal of artwork from federal post office buildings. So it will stay, but soon visitors to the post office will notice a new addition: A written historical explanation of the massacre that will be displayed with the mural.

It is currently being created by USPS Historian Jennifer Lynch in Washington, D.C.

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